KARL Brown is backing fellow Boltonian Haseeb Hameed to return to the top of English cricket.

Lancashire opener Hameed, formerly of Tonge and Farnworth Social Circle, has endured a tough two seasons in county cricket, with last summer particularly difficult.

Hameed’s breakthrough year in 2016 yielded a record-breaking haul of 1,198 County Championship runs with seven fifties and four hundreds.

It earned him a Test Match call-up for England’s tour of India at the end of that year when he impressed with 219 runs from three appearances with two fifties.

But Hameed broke a finger, something which has been an issue ever since, to end his tour prematurely, and he has failed to hit the same heights since.

In the last two seasons of county cricket, the 22-year-old has scored only 678 runs in the Championship from 38 innings at an average of 19.37. His top score in that time was 88, and he was even dropped by Lancashire.

At the end of last season, Red Rose director of cricket Paul Allott admitted: "Haseeb Hameed is a dilemma for us. Where his form and function have gone and disappeared to is a complete and utter mystery.”

But Brown, who was released from Lancashire last September, insists his former team-mate will come good again.

“I think it’s a period all young players go through,” said the man from Atherton, who honed his talent in the Bolton and District Cricket Association before embarking on his professional career.

“Has obviously had a difficult year, but his talent is undoubted, and I think he will come back even stronger.

“It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see him get back in the England team.

“It’s easy for people to knock him down after he’s done so well. But what you’ve got to remember is that he’s still a young player who is still learning.

“He’s still got the potential to keep improving, and I think he will do. I’m sure he will bounce back next season.

“He’s already proved he’s got the mentality to deal with setbacks and challenges. He did that when he went to India and performed well in his first few Tests.

“That tells me a lot about him.

“If you can play and score runs in India, although it’s a different challenge, I don’t see bouncing back as a big problem. He can write last year off and start afresh.”

As for Lancashire’s other two Boltonians, Josh Bohannon and Matthew Parkinson, things are going well.

All-rounder Bohannon broke into the first team last year and impressed, while leg-spinner Parkinson has done likewise for Lancashire and the England Lions.

The latter is on the mend following a stress fracture in his back, suffered before Christmas, and both look set for a successful 2019.

Brown added: “They are two very talented lads.

“The thing that stands out the most is they are very confident, which is something you need to be in professional cricket. Those two have big futures ahead.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing how they get on when I can get down to Old Trafford this year and beyond.”